I couldn’t have arrived in Japan to a more iconic view: a warm sunset over Tokyo with the silhouette of Mt. Fuji in the distance. From above, the dense city looks like it could expand indefinitely into the Pacific Ocean. But to the west, cascading hills lush with sugi (Japanese Cedar), maple and bamboo, are a reminder that there is so much more to these islands than the crowded cities.
My last visit to Japan was in November 2012. Before that, I spent two and a half years living in Kobe and since moving back to Victoria in 2008 I’ve returned to Japan on a few occasions. I was having some jitters about leaving Victoria to spend the entire month of May here. I imagined after being away for several years, and with the many circumstances that have changed in my life since, that the place would feel different…less familiar.
Following many hours of travel, a warm greeting from my hosts, and a decent night’s sleep, I spent my first day strolling through Kawachi-Kosaka — a familiar Osaka neighbourhood where I am currently staying. The sounds (of a train passing, the crosswalk beeping, the rattle of shutters opening, sirens in the distance, a myriad of announcements amplified from shops and stations) and smells (of a curry shop, fresh pastries out of the oven, of a diesel car passing, and spring azaleas) are so intensely connected with this place — almost more than any other place that I’ve been — and my memories of them are more deeply ingrained than I expected. I immediately felt at home again.